President Museveni’s castigation of Miss Uganda Quiin Abenakyo for wearing ‘fake’ Indian hair and her subsequent compliance when she appeared in natural African hair at a dinner at his country home in Rwakitura brings to light the question of African identity. This comes hot in the heels of the ban of cosmetics used for lightening or "bleaching" skin by the Rwandan government. Rwanda government’s Cancer Unit of the Health ministry is urging citizens to love their natural skin instead of exposing themselves to dangerous beauty products that have toxins like hydroquinone and mercury.
While the position taken by the two Eastern Africa governments will no doubt raise debate on individual choice and human rights, it reveals that one of the challenges that people of African descent continue to face from the days of slavery and colonization is the question of identity. Dr. Ali Mazrui in The Africans: A Triple Heritage attempts to capture this in his discussion of the competing cultural influences on Africa: traditional African culture, Islamic culture, and Western culture
Since so much of the history of Africa has been written by conquerors, foreigners, missionaries and adventurers, many Africans do not know who they truly are. They have been stripped of their names, languages, culture, customs, and history. They rally themselves on Anglophone, French, Lusophone and in the near future, Chinese grounds. It is time Africans discuss the African identity. The “Africanisation” momentum out to bring Africans back to their roots that saw The Republic of Upper Volta renamed Burkina Faso (“the land of upright men”) and Northern Rhodesia renamed Zambia at independence needs to be reignited. Africans should not continue to define themselves using the lenses of other people.